Follow The Money – Looking At The Campaign Contributions For Catherine Truitt

It is perfectly lawful to donate to a political campaign, and with the Citizens United case decision from the Supreme Court a few years back, it is now lawful for corporations to donate money through political action committees (PACs) and Super PACs.

However, while it is lawful, it doesn’t mean that some interesting ethical questions occur.

Especially when well over two-thirds of the campaign contributions reported for the second quarter for your campaign come from donors whose actions and interests run totally antithetical of supporting public schools.

Two donors represent an out-of-state for profit charter school chain.

Two represent the private entity that controls the surreptitious algorithms that produce EVAAS scores and then calculates damaging school performance grades.

One is a recent chariman of ALEC.

One is a chancellor of an online university that received monies from the state to start up in NC. That person is also the candidate, Catherine Truitt.

Here’s one couple.

The state pays more than three million dollars annually to SAS which was co-founded and is still run by Jim Goodnight who according to Forbes Magazine is one of the top donating executives to political campaigns. In 2016 he donated much to a PAC for Jeb Bush who while in Florida instituted the school performance grade system that North Carolina uses now – the same one that utilizes EVAAS reports to measure schools (https://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/techflash/2015/10/forbes-sas-goodnight-among-tech-execs-for-top.html).

It also is worth looking at the fact that his wife, Ann Goodnight, is a co-founder and board member of BEST NC. When BEST NC had its 2018 legislative meeting it brought in the toxic Michelle Rhee and her campaign for value-added measurements to discuss policy. That “closed-door” meeting was held at SAS headquarters.

The recent principal pay schedule that garnered well-deserved criticism was spearheaded by BEST NC with legislators behind the scenes over the summer of 2018 utilizes EVAAS data.

Too much is being dictated by a private entity that is privately calculating data in a secret fashion to measure a public good and how much should be spent on that public good in a state that wants to privatize that public good.

There’s too much incestuous synergy there. 

Jonathan Hages’s Charter Schools USA is based in Ft. Lauderdale. His political contributions to politicians in North Carolina are rather numerous.

And his wife gave the maximum as well.

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org from last summer which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates. Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

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  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well. He was recently the national chairman of ALEC.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations. It is also worth noting that Forest is also on the state board of education and is ramping up for a run at the governor’s mansion in 2020 with rather dubious claims of sciene and religion.

Oh, and look there’s Jason Siane again.

And lastly, Truitt lists herself as a contributor.

Making sure that she hits the maximum contribution in three different ways.

“If the economy so heavily depends on schools…” – Five Questions For Lawmakers

The debate being waged in North Carolina as far as reopening schools during a pandemic is concerned is certainly not limited to this state.

It’s happening everywhere.

The following tweet references a letter from the Richmond Education Association a chapter of the Virginia Association of Educators. (Compliments to Victoria Lunetta Creamer for the tweet).

The five questions posed in this letter to lawmakers trying to fully open schools in Virginia are questions that should be asked of our NCGA here.

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Here are those five questions. And each is probably applicable to every state in the country.

  1. Why is our economy resting on schools as childcare centers? Shouldn’t American businesses in the year 2020 have advanced to the point that other countries have where childcare is provided by businesses, long-term parental leave is accommodated, and flexibility in working from home or the office is normal practice?
  2. Why have we allowed for an income gap that is so severe and distribution of resources that is so inequitable that we cannot provide online learning to all of our students?
  3. Why is it the case that schools, ostensibly responsible for education, have become the band-aid solution to basic food access and healthcare services to families?
  4. Why are our schools so poorly resourced that we can’t even fund student and staff needs during normal times, and don’t even come close to having the money to accommodate the adjustments that would be necessary to make partial in-school learning feasible during a health crisis?
  5. If the economy so heavily depends on schools, why are businesses paying tax rates that allow for six figure salaries while schools don’r even have functioning air-conditioning units?

Sen. Berger? Rep. Moore? Both of you have been very quick to retweet Trump’s call for reopening schools. Care to answer these questions?

Right Now, There Is Only One Plan We Can Enact For Reopening Schools If NC Continues This Way

It’s not hard to imagine that if there is a teacher or two or three who might be exposed to an active case of COVID-19, the number of sick days or personal days that would have to used by that teacher(s) could literally wipe out the sick/personal day bank.

That’s just if a teacher comes into “close” contact with a known case.

What if the teacher contracts the virus at school and is out for who-knows-how-long?

Are there going to be enough subs available?

One of the basic questions that teachers and other school personnel have in this debate about Plan A or Plan B or Plan C is what happens if a teacher has to quarantine because of actions that are beyond the control of the individual?

Two weeks is at least 10 sick days. Lots of beginning teachers do not have much sick leave or personal leave built up. Will quarantining or battling COVID-19 be taken from a teacher/employee’s pool of days?

Subs cost money. Many people who are qualified to sub will not place themselves in a situation like we might be asking our teachers to be in for a short time if at all.

And let’s not forget that we are dealing with a situation that requires more safety protocols and more resources to just begin to tackle the idea of opening up schools.

Mentioned by a colleague in my own school system was this:

Harry Morley is a special education teacher in my school system.

What he’s referring to is this:

That document is over 30 pages long.

And then look at this from Dr. Drew Polly at UNC-Charlotte. He is quoting Dr. Chelsea Bartel, an NC Licensed Psychologist who works in schools and who took notes on a recent press conference with Governor Cooper.

That does not instill a great amount of confidence within this teacher that we can safely do what Phil Berger wants us to do.

Remember that guidelines for reopening schools were established early in June.

There are 3 plans.

With “critical factors” that need to be monitored for students, teachers, and employees:

Do you think we are anywhere near where we need to be to even consider a plan other than Plan C?

Phil? Want To Reconsider That “No Online Classes For First Week” Law?

Senator Phil Berger has been adamant about all students being in school the first week of school this fall.

From the above report:

State law says public schools can’t do online classes in the first week of school this year.

The House wanted to change that before the mandatory Aug. 17 start of school, but the Senate went home Wednesday without agreeing to do so.

Lawmakers don’t plan to take up any more bills before Sept. 2, leaving questions about whether Wake County and other school systems that plan to rotate students through in-person and online classes so that students can spread out will be able to do that for the first week of school.

“That first week of school will be in-person instruction,” said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who leads the Senate’s Republican majority.

What that means in practice remains to be seen. House Speaker Tim Moore said he believes Gov. Roy Cooper can override the rule by executive order, mooting the issue for systems that hope to do at least some online instruction in that first week.

Berger, R-Rockingham, said he wasn’t sure about that. He and Moore are both attorneys.

“I don’t know whether he’s got the power to do that or not,” Berger said. “I know he’s not been shy about exercising power up to this point.”

And then there is this.

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Let it be known that most of the people in the NCGA learned about it from the media – not Berger.

“Educators Do Need More Support And Clearer Guidelines” – And Lawmakers With Spines

An interesting column appeared in today’s New York Times penned by Dana Goldstein, a senior education correspondent.

The line under the title says it all – “educators say they need more support and clearer guidelines.”

Nothing at this moment could be truer.

Within the article itself was an “idea” floated that shows the disconnect between leaders and reality. How would this sound in a school?

Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, suggested that schools could save money by holding core classes in large spaces like auditoriums or gyms, allowing a single teacher to work with more students while keeping everyone physically distanced.

Too few systems, Professor Roza said, were willing to delay planned pay raises for teachers or furlough unneeded staff members. She also suggested cutting programs like indoor sports and chorus, which may not be safe this year because they spread respiratory droplets that can transmit the coronavirus.

Imagine being a teacher during a pandemic with 60 students in an English class that meets in the gym.

Actually, that’s not far off from what a certain former presidential candidate offered a while back. Remember this?

In that speech, Bloomberg said,

“If I had the ability, which nobody does really, to just design the system and say, ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do, you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers, and double class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”

This is not the time to try and save money to make sure that we have the appearance that schools are open.

If anything, it is time to invest in more people, resources, and more input from actual teaching professionals.

Or we are really going to be paying a higher price for years to come.

What we have right now are people in leadership on both the national and state levels who are offering baseless “solutions” that are funded only with the amount of money and resources that their fantasized ideal might require.

And that’s never been enough when there was no pandemic.

The letter below is from the state super in Arizona concerning opening schools in her state. Arizona is one of the biggest hotspot in the world.

Actually, it’s the hottest.

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The third paragraph is especially insightful.

But we have people in pwer who say this:

And those things are then trumpeted:

Two Victories FOR NC Public Schools Today

If you remember from earlier this week, Trump and Pence talked about having the Centers for Disease Control loosen guidelines to pave the way for a wreckless full reopening of school this coming school year.

From the Associated Press in today’s Winston-Salem Journal:

Determined to reopen America’s schools despite coronavirus worries, President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring students back in the fall. He complained that his own public health officials’ safety guidelines are impractical and too expensive.

Well, just a while ago this happened:

That’s big for the entire country, especially North Carolina where today saw another 2000+ cases of COVID-19 diagnosed (from WRAL).

And if you didn’t know, if each of the states in this country was classified as a country based on population and cases of COVID-19, 15 of the top 25 countries would be US states.

North Carolina made that list. We would have been much higher if our governor had not used his executive orders to put in restrictions that Dan Forest is suing him over.

And here’s the second victory for North Carolina schools today. Remember this from last week?

That was from the Center For Racial Equity in Education concerning the an upcoming vote for new social studies standards that seems to eliminate vital references to races and cultures in many aspects.

At today’s State Board of Education meeting:

This is a good thing.

This Teacher Doesn’t Trust These Hypocritical & Egotistical Leaders In Reopening Schools

If you think that President Trump and Vice-President Pence have led a successful fight against the COVID-19 pandemic here in the US, then we are already in disagreement.

If you think that Betsy DeVos has been a Secretary of Education who has had the best interest of public schools at the forefront of her actions, then you are in a vast minority.

If you think that Senator Phil Berger has been a champion of public schools here in North Carolina, then you just haven’t been paying attention.

Many of our leaders like Trump, Berger, and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest have pushed for reopening the economy without much of a plan except that they are abiding by what John Cole eloquently expressed in one of his latest political cartoons.

What that push for reopening has really done is expose the fact that there has been this perfect storm of lack of resources, disdain for science, and ill-regard for public health. And it’s brought us this:

If each of the states in this country was classified as a country based on population and cases of COVID-19, 15 of the top 25 countries would be US states.

North Carolina made that list. We would have been much higher if our governor had not used his executive orders to put in restrictions that Dan Forest is suing him over.

So, the people who have shown that they do not regard science, data, and public health because of ego and electioneering now want to reopen our schools without any real plan for safety and commitment for resources except through threats and empty words.

Here’s Exhibit A:

That’s from the AP as printed in today’s Winston-Salem Journal. It starts with this:

Determined to reopen America’s schools despite coronavirus worries, President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring students back in the fall. He complained that his own public health officials’ safety guidelines are impractical and too expensive.

Shortly afterward, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue new guidance next week “that will give all new tools to our schools.” The recommendations will keep students safe, he said, but “the president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough. ”

That’s literally holding public schools hostage with funding and at the same time telling his own health officials to loosen guidelines so that schools will be in “compliance.”

Dana Goldstein is a New York Times correspondent and wrote The Teacher Wars, a great book on the history of the teaching profession.

And DeVos was right on board with her boss. Just click on the video in the next Twitter link on the show of a man who has literally lost most of his major sponsors because of racist commentary.

And Mike Pence has been no voice of reason. Nor has he been a champion for public education himself. As governor of Indiana, he did as much to privatize public education as Phil Berger has here in NC. Just listen to him ramble in this video.

And of course, there’s Phil Berger trumpeting Trump.

But Berger has not threatened to withhold funding.

He’s made sure that it wasn’t fully there in the first place.

So, What Happens If A Teacher Gets COVID-19 While At School?

The push to reopen schools is definitely on.

It comes from Trump. It comes from DeVos. It comes from Berger. It comes from many others who have crafted the policies schools have had to endure for the past few years.

One of the many disconcerting aspects over reopening schools is that in most cases plans seem to be a bad lesson plan at least.

There seems to be no real talk from officials about what happens when there is an actual outbreak in a school, and before someone argues that students are not susceptible to the effects of the coronavirus, there are a few glaring things to consider.

First, it is hard to name a place that consistently brings together hundreds of people on a daily basis from all walks of life. Play a game of “Six Degrees of Separation” where the criteria is just coming into contact with someone, then I would probably start at the local public school. Your grandmother lives with you and you come in contact with a student who is carrying the virus but is asymptomatic. That’s all it takes.

Secondly, we haven’t really been in school since the pandemic was declared – at least in most places. We really haven’t tested the whole “schools reopening” concept on a very large basis. In truth, we don’t really know how well these “plans” will work. That means there needs to be a lot of planning.

Furthermore, are we really sure that we have seen all that this virus can do? More and more young people are getting diagnosed, and since it is very hard to get tested if you don’t have symptoms, that means that more young people are showing symptoms. And you can’t talk about death rates as the best barameter for all of this.

Then there are teachers. What happens if a teacher gets the virus while working at school during the reopening?

Consider this from today’s Winston-Salem Journal that covers my home school system.

Think of the amount of time for quarantine and recovery. Will there be a tax on personal leave? Sick leave? What happens with the students?

What happens if a child of a teacher contracts the virus and tests positive?

These are valid questions that teachers and other school personnel have, but they cannot be answered because at the root of public schools is the concept that the public school system will only be funded to a perceived level that only considers an ideal situation will happen.

And the people who are doing the funding and policy making are mostly people who have no idea about the day to day operations of a public school.

They think they know what it entails and how much it should cost. Now we are in unchartered territory.

Peter Greene who authors the great education blog Curmudgucation also writes for Forbes.com. His recent post deals with this most excellently.

The President’s Roundtable For Reopening Schools (And What DeVos Said)

Belwo is a link to the entire video of Trump’s “roundtable” discussion for the reopening of schools in the US.

Various officials spoke – all positively in favor of the president’s call for the full reopening of schools.

It is a tad bit reminiscent of the first scene in King Lear when Lear asks his own daughters to describe how much they love him as a way to see who gets a share of the inheritance.

Betsy DeVos speaks around 1:08.00 in.

And yes, she equates this with the building of the Panama Canal, both World Wars, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the defeat of ISIS.

“We’ve dug out the Panama Canal. We’ve won world wars. We’ve reduced the Berlin Wall to Rubble, and thanks to you, we’ve defeated ISIS. With grit, determination, and grace, we can do what’s right for all students and ensure they are back at school.”

-Betsy DeVos

About Catherine Truitt’s School Reopening Plans

It is less than four months until the general election and people can vote for a new state superintendent.

Hopefully, Catherine Truitt will not win that office. In what seems to be her central campaign platform, Truitt is calling for a directive from the state about opening up. She herself offers no real in-depth plan herself – just let the local districts dictate things.

This is her tweet about it today.

It’s been a running theme. From 2 days ago:

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3 days ago:

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4 days ago:

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Truitt’s platform right now is all about attacking the governor – not about what she will do for schools. But even a directive from the state is not the end all be all.

Truitt does not acknowledge that there is more than meets the eye. One principal on her last tweet called her out on her misleading call.

If Truitt actually knew teachers and schools, she would know that every LEA right now is scrambling to figure out what it will be doing. My own school system has another board meeting tonight to make plans based on what it can do and then implement that plan when a directive is given and what parameters are placed by the state.

But Truitt never talks about things she would do if she becomes the state super to allow for this “local control.”

Each LEA could have its own unique plan (115 school systems in the state). And because charter schools are not under the auspices of the local school system from which they get money, it seems logical that each charter school could have its own unique plan for reopening. Think about start dates, how many days of remote instruction versus in-person to begin school year, etc. For instance, look at Davidson County in the Triad area. There are actually three LEAs within the boundaries of Davidson County: Davidson County Schools, Lexington City Schools, and Thomasville City Schools.

Literally the same geographical area, but three different reopening plans could be taking place for multiple campuses. Keep in mind that plans can do different things for elementary, middle, and high school campuses within the same school system.

With so many school systems going in different directions, it would be hard for the state to even think that we should have standardized state and federal tests next school year. It would also bring into question the school performance grading system, past rules on calendar flexibility, the 10 day-attendance “rule” to ascertain size of student body, and the law that states we have to start the beginning of the year in person. WHAT DOES TRUITT HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT?

Furthermore, if each school system is to have its own reopening plan, then it is easier for the state to say, “Do what you think is best for your schools and students, but enacting your own plan means that you finance your own plan with your own resources (and we aren’t going to offer a state-plan).”

Think class size chaos (and remember that really has not gone away). That was a state mandate that Raleigh passed along to the locals, but never gave funds for it to be implemented. The state passed the bill on to the LEA’s but state was the entity who said that they had to “buy” it in the first place.

All while reducing state revenue with tax credits to corporations.

So Truitt wants to tell local system, ” You do your own thing.”

WILL TRUITT FIGHT FOR MORE FUNDING AND REOSURCES FROM THE STATE TO HELP THEM?

Her words as the senior education advisor for then Pat McCrory seem to show that she would not.